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Temperature Monitoring

Climate Control for Catalyst Removal and Replacement

Cooling and dehumidification equipment can protect the catalyst and the reactor.

The catalyst in your reactor represents a significant portion of your chemical plant or refinery’s operating costs. Protecting it is key not only to your productivity but also to preserving your bottom line. Since moisture is enemy number one, controlling the climate in the reactor during catalyst removal and replacement to keep the catalyst dry is essential.

Working with a temporary equipment provider that has specialized equipment and expert knowledge in this type of climate control can help ensure the protection of your catalyst — and your reactor — during these tasks.

Removing moisture

One of the challenges during catalyst removal and replacement is the time it takes to cool the reactor so it’s safe for workers to enter. Forcing in chilled air can bring it to the necessary temperature, but when that air hits the hot air in the reactor, condensation can form on the walls. That can result in rust bloom, not to mention compromise of the catalyst.

Removing moisture from the chilled air before it goes into the reactor, effectively lowering the air’s dew point, can solve the problem.

“We use a combination of big water chillers and big air handlers to cool the air off and add desiccant dehumidifiers that have a catalyst inside that absorbs the water,” said James Bradford, regional product development manager with United Rentals’ Power and Custom Cooling Solutions division. “The air I put in there might be 70 degrees, but the catalyst will stay dry because the air has a lower dew point,” he explained.

Because the catalyst is so critical — and so expensive — Bradford advises any plant that’s doing catalyst removal and/or replacement to make sure the company they’re working with understands the issues and has the equipment and the expertise to handle them.

“Over the years, we’ve designed specialized equipment for this process. Putting together generic equipment just doesn’t work as well,” he said.

Improved temperature monitoring

Chemical plants and refineries need guarantees that they won’t lose their catalysts. When providing climate control solutions for catalyst removal and replacement, United Rentals backs up its catalyst guarantee with a belt-and-suspenders approach to monitoring the air in the reactor: human technicians and wireless monitoring.

“We came up with a wireless system that logs the temperatures and dew point of the air that’s being applied to the customer’s reactor every 30 seconds,” said Bradford. “A customer can open up his phone at any time, even in the middle of the night, to monitor it. If something starts to malfunction and the air temperature or dew point starts to rise or to change, the system will alert us. We have technicians on site 24/7 that can go to check out the affected reactor and fix whatever is wrong before there’s a problem with the catalyst,” he added.

Having a system that automatically logs the air data is particularly important when a plant is having trouble with its catalyst, Bradford noted. “If for some reason the catalyst is not performing as it should, the catalyst producer will ask the plant for these records. If the plant can’t produce them, the catalyst provider may say that the problems they’re having stems from the way that they loaded the catalyst.”

The data logs can prove the reactor didn’t reach an inappropriate temperature and/or moisture level. To learn more about United Rentals’ climate control services for catalyst removal and replacement, contact the United Rentals' Power and HVAC solutions division.


Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.

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